A Step-By-Step Guide to Setting the Default Message Format in Outlook

Control the format of outgoing Outlook messages

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There are three message formats to choose from in Outlook:  plain text, HTML, and Rich Text Format. You don't have to designate your favorite format every time—just make it your Outlook's default instead.

Set the Default Message Format in Outlook 2016 for Windows

To configure the default format for new emails in Outlook:

  1. Select File > Options in Outlook.
  2. Open the Mail category.
  3. Choose the format you want to use as the default for new emails under Compose messages in this format.
  1. Click OK.

Note that you can set up Outlook to always use plain text or rich text for individual recipients regardless of the default message format you specify.

Set the Default Message Format in Outlook 2000–2007

To set the default message format in Outlook versions 2000 through 2007:

  1. Select Tools > Options from the menu in Outlook.
  2. Go to the Mail Format tab.
  3. Choose the format you want to use as a default for new messages in the Compose in this message format list.
  4. Click OK.

Set the Default Message Format in Outlook for Mac

To configure which message format—plain text or HTML (rich text is not available)—Outlook for Mac 2016 or Office 365 Outlook should use when you start a new email or reply:

  1. Select Outlook > Preferences… from the menu in Outlook for Mac.
  2. Open the Composing category.
  3. To have Outlook for Mac use HTML formatting by default for all emails—new messages as well as replies:
    1. Make sure Compose messages in HTML by default is selected.
    2. Also make sure When replying or forwarding, use the format of the original message is not checked. However, you may want to check this because it is usually best to reply to plain text messages using only plain text, as this format might be preferred by the recipient.
  1. ​To have Outlook for Mac use plain text-only for new messages and replies:
    1. Make sure Compose messages in HTML by default is not checked.
    2. Make sure When replying or forwarding, use the format of the original message is not checked. ​With plain text as the default, it is safe to leave this option unchecked; having it enabled is the choice to make if you prefer to send plain text emails exclusively.
  1. ​Close the Composing preferences window.
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